Aural Noir Review of The Adventures Of Sexton Blake

Aural Noir: Review

BBC Audio - The Adventures Of Sexton BlakeSFFaudio EssentialThe Adventures of Sexton Blake
Based on the character created by Harry Blyth; Performed by a full cast
2 CDs or MP3 Download – Approx. 2 Hours [RADIO DRAMA]
Publisher: BBC Audiobooks / Perfectly Normal Productions
Published: September 2009
ISBN: 1408410540
Themes: / Mystery / Adventure / Crime / Steampunk / Airships / London / Exmouth / Willesden /

Britain’s iconic and most prolifically chronicled sleuth explodes back into action in a brand new series of thrilling Adventures packed with incident and hilarity!

Back in 2006 we had a story about the new co-venture between Perfectly Normal productions and BBC Audiobooks. Audio drama legend Dirk Maggs was set to revive several “cult British comic characters.” This is the first of these. I hope there will be MANY MORE!

Sexton Blake, a renowned Baker Street detective, and his youthful assistant Tinker regularly face peril with deceptive disguises and flying fists. In between investigations they return to their Baker Street rooming house for endless lashings of tea and heaping plates of kippers. Their landlady, Mrs. Bardell, makes the food, debriefs the great detective, and commiserates with her neighbor, Mrs. H. (she’s also a landlady to another famous Baker street detective). The story begins aboard a runaway locomotive at the tail end of a kind of locked room mystery – after a few shootings by the various suspicious characters and a brief detour into the dining car’s wine cellar, the villain is revealed -only to escape by auto-gyro. When Blake returns to his Baker street residence he’s soon embroiled in a new investigation brought on by the arrival of a beautiful American actress. The investigation is both serpentine and ingenious, and it leads directly into the next – one in which an incredibly capable and amnesic woman saves Blake and Tinker from a false charge of burglary. Their investigation into her curious abilities and former profession lead Blake and Tinker into a house of deathtraps (or is that a deathtrap house). The action finally culminates in a thrilling saber duel atop a Zeppelin! At the beginning of each new episode there’s a mini-scene from an unrelated Sexton Blake adventure – each depicting Blake defeating either a rapscallious villain or a villainous rapscallion.

The Adventures Of Sexton Blake is jam packed with as much rib-tickling raillery as The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. The script is unbelievably clever and funny. It features a kind of endless stream-of-consciousness wordplay that clearly follows in the tradition of Douglas Adams, Monty Python, and The Goon Show. What sets it apart from it’s forebearers is a strict adherence to the medium. The only possible way to tell this tale is as an audio drama. Perhaps the most amazing aspect is vaguely amazing feeling I got while listening to it. There’s this kind of general consensus by all the characters to LARP their way through the adventure. No one character has the final word on anything, and every character in the scene is constantly throwing new nuance on the mental pictures being created in the listener. It’s not so much a mystery you can solve by following the clues, it’s more of an adventure you can ride with a flashing smirk.

These adventures are brilliantly envisioned by a terrific combination of skilled comedic acting, an engaging theme song and thousands of layered sound effects. I’m betting the script was at least twice as thick, per minute, as a typical (or ordinary, or normal) one. The outstanding cast and crew has made The Adventures Of Sexton Blake a play that can stand shoulder to shoulder, chin to chin, and eye to eye, with the finest audio dramatizations ever produced – and not feel even the slightest weak in the knees. This is very highly recommended listening!

Written by Mil Millington and Jonathan Nash; Directed by Dirk Maggs
Sound Design and Music by Paul Weir
Produced by David Morley

Simon Jones ….. Sexton Blake, Adventuring Detective
Wayne Forester …. Tinker, his Plucky Assistant
June Whitfield …. Mrs Bardell, their Doughty Housekeeper
Graham Hoadly …. Professor Kew, a Spindly Cackler
Lorelei King …. Miss Elizabeth Mary-Louise Tarabelle Beauchamp
Simon Treves …. Inspector Coutts Of Scotland Yard
Felicity Duncan …. Miss Terry, Window-Leaping Adventuress
Susan Sheridan …. Mrs Hudson, Housekeeper To A Neighbouring Detective
Malcolm Brown …. Count Ivor Carlac, a Villainous Juggernaut
Philip Glassborow …. Cyril, A Grim Assassin
Oscar Sharp …. The Frantic Caller
William Franklyn …. The Mysterious Waiter

Posted by Jesse Willis

New Release – The Adventures of Sexton Blake (CD or MP3 DOWNLOAD)

Aural Noir: New Releases

Paul Weir sez:

“[The] BBC Radio 2 series The Adventures of Sexton Blake is now released on CD and download and contains over 40 minutes of extra material.

For UK people, is the cheapest where it’s currently the number 1 audio book. For US listeners Amazon does have it but it’s cheaper to download from our site, which is a) the cheapest and b) the only place where you can download it as a high quality (160kbps) stereo mp3.”

BBC Audio - The Adventures Of Sexton BlakeThe Adventures of Sexton Blake
Based on the character created by Harry Blyth; Performed by a full cast
2 CDs or MP3 Download – Approx. 2 Hours [RADIO DRAMA]
Publisher: BBC Audiobooks
Published: September 2009
ISBN: 1408410540
BBC Radio 2’s action-packed deafening romp – with 40 minutes of previously unbroadcast peril Sexton Blake! The name that spells hurtling adventure! The name that spells doom for villainy! In a series of thrilling adventures packed with incident and hilarity, Sexton Blake, (Simon Jones, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy) and his plucky assistant Tinker (Wayne Forester, Captain Scarlet), aided by Mrs Bardell (June Whitfield, Absolutely Fabulous) battle diabolical masterminds, bewitching thieves and sinister fiends, out-thinking them in the head and out-punching them in the jaw! Also featured in this cinematic audio extravaganza from award-winning Dirk Maggs (The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy) is a cameo from BBC Radio’s original Sexton Blake – the legendary and coolly dashing William Franklyn.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Aural Noir Review of Grifter’s Game by Lawrence Block

Aural Noir: Review

Grifter’s Game is book number 001 in the Hard Case Crime library.

Crime Fiction Audiobook - Grifter’s Game by Lawrence BlockSFFaudio EssentialHard Case CrimeGrifter’s Game
By Lawrence Block; Read by Alan Sklar
5 CDs – 5 Hours 17 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: BBC Audiobooks America
Published: 2006
ISBN: 9781602834538
Themes: / Crime / Noir / Femme Fatale / Drugs / Murder / Atlantic City /

Con man Joe Marlin was used to scoring easy cash off of gullible women. But that was before he met Mona Brassard — and found himself holding a stolen stash of raw heroin. Now that Joe has fallen hard for Mona, he’s got to pull off the most dangerous con of his career: one that will leave him either a killer — or a corpse.

Before he settled into the comfortable (and profitable) serial novels, starring the characters you love to love, Lawrence Block was writing crime novels. With every turn of the page, you could almost hear the peeling the wallpaper off of even the swankiest of hotel room walls. These are the gritty, acidic, abrasive early novels of Lawrence Block. The characters in these fifty-thousand worders were hardened criminals. Unrepentant, unlovable, more disposable, but ultimately just as magnetic as those who would come later. Block’s first novel (under his own name) featured just one such criminal. Joe Marlin is smooth and hungry. He’s no ageless, cuddly Bernie Rhodenbarr, solving murders between burglaries. He can’t relate the moral greyness that comes from too many years as a cop, like Matt Scudder. And he doesn’t contemplate the American lifestyle whilst planning murder for hire, like Keller. He’s just one low-down and dirty sonofabitch, telling as compelling a crime tale as you’ll ever likely to hear. Marlin’s story was first published by Gold Medal in 1961 under the title Mona. In 1986, it was released as Sweet Slow Death. And most recently it was republished with a third title: Grifter’s Game, this time by Hard Case Crime. Block himself fancied The Girl on the Beach, as the novel’s title. But no matter what name the novel goes by, it’s a fast and dirty, and shoots a strong enough curve to throw even the most hardened of modern readers off their game. At 47 years old it’s still one of Block’s strongest novels.

Reader Alan Sklar grows into the voice of the narrator as Marlin’s plans turn darker. We like his Joe Marlin, he’s clever and slick, he lingers on the details and teases us. The only thing is that Sklar sees it all coming – he knows, he tells us he knows, but doesn’t telegraph, and so, when the killing blow ultimately comes, it doesn’t hit us until we’re too close, until we can really feel it, until we own it. Until we live it.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Aural Noir Review of Dirty Money by Richard Stark

Aural Noir - Review

Back in 2005 SFFaudio spun-off a sister site called But it didn’t take. Those who visited loved it, but too few visited. So, what we’re doing now is posting non-Science Fiction, Fantasy or Horror, reviews, news, etc, under special headers like the one above. So welcome to our first such. Stick around, we’ll see how the string plays itself out.

Crime Fiction - Dirty Money by Richard StarkDirty Money
By Richard Stark; Read by Stephen Thorne
Audible Download – 5 Hours 12 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: BBC Audiobooks America
Provider: Review copy provided by
Published: 2008
Themes: / Crime / Heist / Armored Car / Double-cross / Massachusetts /

Master criminal Parker takes another turn for the worse as he tries to recover loot from a heist gone terribly wrong. Parker and two cohorts stole the assets of a bank in transit, but the police heat was so great they could only escape if they left the money behind. Now Parker and his associates plot to reclaim the loot, which they hid in the choir loft of an unused country church. As they implement the plan, people on both sides of the law use the forces at their command to stop Parker and grab the goods for themselves. Though Parker’s new getaway van is an old Ford Econoline with “Holy Redeemer Choir” on its doors, his gang is anything but holy, and Parker will do whatever it takes to redeem his prize, no matter who gets hurt in the process.

Richard Stark is the alternate personality of crime writer Donald E. Westlake. I’m a giant fan of both guys, Westlake seems to write instinctually, sometimes it all comes together sometimes it doesn’t. Dirty Money doesn’t blow my socks off. But, it is the latest installment in Stark’s long running (more than 20) series of novels about the hardened heister known only as “Parker.” What seems to have gone wrong is that Dirty Money is only a small part of the overall-arc of the last three books (the previous being Nobody Runs Forever and Ask The Parrot) – in previous decades all the action would have been crammed into one novel. There is value here, for long time Parker readers, but not enough, and it definitely isn’t the place to start reading the series.

The best place to start with Stark is his first book. In 1962 the world of paperback books was introduced to a novel about a professional thief who could do something all the previous fictional thieves could never seem to do – that is, actually get away with crime. Getting back to Dirty Money though, the plot starts as a continuation of the scene following mere moments after the closing sentence of the previous novel, Ask The Parrot. It seems Parker is still chasing the loot from the armored car heist he pulled off with a few other thugs two novels back (Nobody Runs Forever). In the back-story the crew had had to dump the money in an abandoned church so as to flee the area without carrying incriminating evidence. Now, having escaped the encircling noose, Parker’s putting his neck right back into it, but using his semi-straight common-law wife, Clarie, as his cover. As always, Parker’s not the only man after the swag though – his former partners are on the prowl, as are the cops, both local and federal. Everyone is intent on recovering the dirty money. findin. Like in every Parker tale, nothing goes quite according to plan. The twists and turns in Dirty Money, sadly, are unusually subdued. There are a lot of characters poking their noses into Parker’s business, but none of them seem quite up to the challenge of really making Parker’s life the miserable one we all like to see.

Stephen Thorne, the narrator, doesn’t project the voice of Parker all that well either. Parker seems too sedate, too settled – he’s seems almost comfortable with being a tourist in a Massachusetts autumn. Parker as a “leaf peeper” could almost be comedic, but it doesn’t quite come off that way – it comes off weak. And from what we know of him he aint weak. I still recall the kinetic menace of my favorite Parker narrator – Michael Kramer’s readings of the first dozen or so audiobooks done for Books On Tape projected danger in the most flip of lines – for me he’ll probably always be the voice of Parker. Still, knowing that Stark and Westlake novels are hit and miss affairs, I’ll be back, looking for more adventures should they come.

A note about this edition. Though originally released by BBC Audiobooks America, our review copy of Dirty Money came via Normally we don’t mention prices on SFFaudio, but I’m going to break that code here just for a moment. $10.48 is how much Dirty Money costs from The price for the CD edition on the BBC Audiobooks America website is $64.95. Normally, that wouldn’t be a big issue, I could just borrow a copy from the local library. Unfortunately, there isn’t one CD version of Dirty Money in all of Canada! Audible is definitely the deal here.

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Quantico by Greg Bear

SFFaudio Audiobook Review

SF Audiobook - Quantico by Greg BearQuantico
By Greg Bear; Read by Jeff Woodman
11 CDs – 13 Hours 25 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: BBC Audiobooks America
Published: 2007
ISBN: 9780792748441
Themes: / Science Fiction / Terrorism / Saudi Arabia / Iraq/
“Well, its kinda the sum of your worst possible fears that you don’t know.”

-Greg Bear: June 21st 2007 on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show
responding to a request for a brief synopsis of Quantico.

The United States is under attack from all quarters, including from within. In the near future where America is in an arms race with high tech terrorists, sanity vies with ancient religious hatreds. Only three new FBI agents will be able to battle a plague as “10/4” becomes the next “9/11.” From Washington to Iraq confusion is afoot and only a covert mission to a forbidden city can preserve an already grim future.

This is Greg Bear doing Tom Clancy. The question is why? Is Bear pulling a Dean Koontz, (Koontz dropped SF for suspense in 1972)? Is he trying to shift his career out of a poorly paying Science Fiction genre into a more mainstream, higher paying, airport terminal fiction? If Quantico is anything to go by, one of my favorite authors has indeed thrown in the towel on idea SF. What he’s written here is a technothriller, set in a near future. Is this Hugo and Nebula award winning author, known for his Byzantine plotting and earth shattering ideas, still writing interesting fiction? Yes, but the SF elements are so minimized, playing such a marginal role in the story that I was ready to give up on it. I wanted Bear’s original Science Fiction ideas coming from his oddly motivated characters. What I got was better than Tom Clancy, but I don’t like Clancy. It was refreshing to see some post-9/11 terrorism fiction that includes domestic born terrorists, but I am not able to recommend it to SF fans.

Narrator Jeff Woodman was a capable reader, he disappeared into the text, voicing a clear delineation between characters from similar backgrounds while giving a individual and believable American and Arabic accents. Production values were, as expected, BBC quality.

BBC announces Douglas Adams RADIO DRAMAS


BBC AudiobooksThe BBC has written in to tell us that there are three new dramatisations of Douglas Adams’s novels in the works! The two Dirk Gently novels (previously released as unabridged audiobooks) will be adapted into Radio Dramas! Also in the works is a Radio Dramatization of Adams’ last, and unfinished novel: The Salmon Of Doubt. These will all be published by BBC Audiobooks, beginning later this year and are being produced by Above The Title Productions with Dirk Maggs on board as director!

Maggs and Above The Title are the team responsible for the The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy‘s Tertiary, Quandary and Quintessential Phase productions. The three new series will also be broadcast on BBC Radio 4, beginning with Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency in October 2007. The other two titles are The Long Dark Tea-Time Of The Soul and Adams’s unfinished novel The Salmon Of Doubt. Each series will be comprise of six 30 minute episodes. Recording begins in May 2007. BBC Audiobooks will publish Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency on November 8th 2007 .

Personally I’m super-juiced at the prospect of hearing dramatizations of the Svlad Cjelli adventures – I still haven’t heard much about The Salmon Of Doubt though. Is that a Dirk Gently novel too?